November 10, 2009

War Zone!

I woke in the night to the deep reverberations of distant gunfire and bombing—felt like I was in a war zone.  Once I’d righted the situation by getting up and asking our night owl to turn the bass speaker down, it occurred to me, I am living in a war zone.  Our struggle may not be against flesh and blood or other seen realities.  It is nonetheless real – principalities and powers vie for the lifeblood of our own young adults.  We are the sentry on the hill signaling heaven for aid, believing for reinforcements, holding up our arms…

With the gray light of a rainy morning I opened an old hymnbook to this militant gem:
    Sound the battle cry! See the foe is nigh;
    Raise the standard high For the Lord;
   Gird your armor on, Stand firm, everyone;
   Rest your cause upon His holy Word.

So I rise to gird on my armor this particular morning in the face of situations I have no solutions for, problems I feel powerless to solve… Life is like that often as a parent.  Did I miss Basic Training Camp or something or is this on-the--job training?  Every year the job description changes anyway so the training manual had better be comprehensive.  And so it is.  I’ve been chewing on II Peter 1 lately—we have everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us. Hmm.  That should be enough! And through His great and precious promises we are invited to share His very nature. wow.

So where did this heap of guilt, condemnation for a job poorly done, and a sense of helpless inadequacy come from?  Why am I feeling accused of being a failure?  (Now there’s a red flag! ‘…the accuser of the brethren’?) Where does all this tend to push me? toward anger? resentment? against whom?  I woke this morning with a familiar chorus singing through my heart: “You’re the Defender of the weak; You comfort those in need.  You lift us up on wings like eagles…Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord…”
     [If you have not yet been introduced to Chris Tomlin’s music, do check it out:]

The not-so-funny thing is, God sometimes seems to be part of the problem.  He’s not rescuing me from my troubles, not giving me answers quickly enough, not quelling my rising panic with an instant and tidy “here’s how” blueprint.  In short, He doesn’t seem to be in a rush to fix my problems.  So between my stealthily rising resentment and a descending sense of condemnation I can tend to separate myself from my very source of strength right when I need Him most.  But then His Spirit faithfully comes and whispers songs in my ear and points me to truth.  Wow.  Yes, better get about putting on that armor!

…the belt of truth—what is it I’m believing right now, about my troubles, about my God, about myself?  Is it true?  Confessing to do?  Do it?  Truth to hang on to? Grab hold!
…the breastplate of righteousness—shields me from the necessity of being ‘good enough’ for the job.  It’s not about me. My hero is the Perfect One and when God looks my way, He sees Jesus, my Redeemer.
…shoes on?  I can walk in peace with God.  He’s not holding me at arm’s length hoping I’ll get my act together one of these days.  There’s been a truce.  We’re friends forever.  And that’s my story to spread!
…the shield of faith—No propaganda of the enemy can pierce it.  Taking God at His word by faith protects me from feelings that lie and every taunting accusation.  This I will believe: God is for me and He is always GOOD!
…the Spirit’s sword, God’s word.  Pick it up. Wield it well.  Use it to slaughter the foe. That’s my provision for the war at hand.
…and last but not least my greatest weapon—prayer—alert, persevering prayer all the time for every situation.
I guess that’s why I’m sitting here this morning—listening for what to pray, waiting for strength to rise, ready to pick up my sword again and do battle…

    O Thou God of all, Hear us when we call,
     Help us one and all, By Thy grace;
    When the battle’s done,  And the victory’s won,
    May we wear the crown Before Thy face.

Rouse, then, soldiers, rally round the banner, Ready, steady, pass the word along;
Onward, forward, shout aloud Hosanna! Christ is Captain of the mighty throng.

                                                --William F. Sherwin (1826-1888)

You’ll have to pardon the bold print. I got a little excited there as I could hear the strains of singing with the organ swelling in the background, from my childhood...

May God give you songs in the night and His Spirit’s ever-faithful nudges to keep on keeping on with your head held high and your hands to heaven.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.” (Ps.18:2,3 NIV)


P.S. What songs do you hear lately? Would love it if you left a note.

October 29, 2009

Christian Art?

Ok. So I've been reading Dorothy Sayers essays this afternoon, this dreary cold and wet afternoon that suggests a head cold in the making... The essay entitled: "Toward a Christian Esthetic" captured my attention. No, not because of the dry title! (What does "esthetic" exactly mean anyway?*)  --but because I think 'the arts' have gotten a bad rap in our times from Christians and I'm always on the lookout for a good defense.  Just because anything and everything unsavory and bizarre is termed ''art" and promoted at the taxpayer's expense does not mean that art is useless does it?  or that artists are all losers?  No regard is given to the fact that God is in fact the greatest Artist of all time and surely His image is detectable somewhere in His creatures' capacity to create.  Anyway,  I digress by way of telling how such a dry title could capture my attention on this drowsy afternoon....

Dorothy Sayers sets out in this essay to give a state of the arts report and to propose a Christian philosophy of the arts, as in, what should art look like (whether poem, painting or play, or movie, music or sculpting) if it is truly reflective of the image of God?  Her analysis concerns England in the World War II era, but I find her remarks to be strikingly apropos to our own times.  Her analysis if it is accurate is cause for alarm in our generation, as in NOW, for ourselves and our own progeny!  Only catch is I'm not sure what action to take.  Here's hoping you have some ideas to add.

But first the state of things:
It's the age old problem of a culture which demands entertainment at the expense of true art.  What's the difference?  The Greeks tried to get a handle on it.  Plato figured there should be only good guys on the stage--only things worthy of imitation, inspiring noble action.  Then he went further than that and wanted to ban all representational art, that is, all art that was an imitation of the real thing.  Hmm... I guess all plays and movies are out!  His reason: the effect on the audience.  He said it was a waste of emotional energy that could have been put toward the real problems of life instead of dissipated in the theater. He said that arousing passions whether pity, courage, indignation or whatever by means of play-acting  left the mind empty and slack with no appetite for real life, but only for more of the same. He was a prophet to his own generation, and to ours?  We haven't come to war and collapse yet.  Is that our only hope?

I quote from Sayers:
"We too have audiences and critics and newspapers assessing every play and book and novel in terms of its entertainment value, and a whole generation of young men and women who dream over novels and wallow in daydreaming at the cinema, and who seemed to be in a fair way of doping themselves into complete irresponsibility over the conduct of life until war came, as it did in Greece, to jerk them back to reality."

While such diversions may be ok for occasional relaxation, Sayers suggests that a regular diet of the unreal will eventually corrupt one's consciousness of reality in experience leading to "a civilization that lives for amusement, a civilization without guts, without experience, and out of touch with reality." Yikes.  What a prognosis.

This type of "art" according to Sayers fails to conform to a proper Christian esthetic. 

What then? 
Shall we have movies and books instead that moralize and preach, upholding good causes and manipulating the viewer with a good story line to take action? Is this real art or just propaganda?

Will leave you to chew on these thoughts till next time.  My day has wound down to a drowsy evening by the fire and it feels like time for a break from so much thinking... perhaps a good movie would be just the thing? (!)


* esthetic - A guiding principle in matters of artistic beauty and taste; artistic sensibility

Quotations taken from the Essay: Toward a Christian Esthetic in The Whimsical Christian by Dorothy Sayers

September 19, 2009

Tell of all His Wondrous Works!

Yellowstone is an amazing place--thermal wonders everywhere. It's not just about seeing Old Faithful 'geys'...though hundreds gather every hour and a half for this roughly predictable event. Raw power unleashed--it may be predictable but not controllable. For me the greater wonder is in the unpredictable geysers that catch you unawares.  You're just idling along down the boardwalk and they explode from the earth in a shower of steam and scalding water and brilliant spray--for just a few moments or for 20 minutes or more.  Others slosh and pound restlessly just within their prescribed holes waiting for pressure to build.... Incredible power is here displayed.  And incredible power held back.

And mystery.  Consider the steam rising from a crack in the asphalt of the parking lot.  There's a temporary construction barrier marking it now.  What will it become? a gaping hot spring?  a fumerole?  Head away from the crowds on the boardwalks for a hike on the neighboring hillside.  Watch your step.  Here the hot springs just pop up where they will.  Here you may find a little pebbly puddle boiling at your feet.  Or stray just a bit from the marked trail (cautiously!) and you may find steam rising, water pounding and sloshing from an opened hole in a hillside, still surrounded by trees and grasses till the heat overtakes them too and this becomes an official site with a sign post.

This is an incredible place-- a testimony to the incredible power of God-- "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead;"(Rom.1:20) This is what I found so galling on our recent visit to Yellowstone:  Here we have a National Park which the world comes in droves to view.  Here we have opportunity to make known our God--the God who made the heavens (and the depths of the earth from which the geysers erupt).  Here is evidence of Catastrophism.  Instead, park guides and visitor's centers and bookstores proclaim foolishness--tossing about zillions of years as if they were confetti, spinning tales and fables of origins and inevitabilities with all the seriousness and authority of experts.  As if they were there from the beginning.  As if they were God.  Disturbing.

I'm told there is a book about Yellowstone from a Creationist point of view now being written.  Various articles are available from Institute for Creation Research. And I can do my part singing His praise for all I see... Care to join me?

Click here for a sampling of Geysers and other wonders  "for great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and He is to be held in awe above all gods.

Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in His place." (IChr.16:25,27)

August 5, 2009

For the Wonder...

Some love an orderly, symmetrical, and tidy garden where the gardener is clearly in control.  Others, a wild cottage garden where the flowers seem to run the show.  I am the wild one, which is a challenge to defend when the man of the house prefers a more controlled look...


But today I stumbled upon the explanation.  It's all about wonder-- the wonder of wandering in the garden and coming upon something unexpected. 

Take for instance this morning.  I was out weeding and harvesting potatoes in my veggie garden and turned aside to have a look at my  Flower Corner.  What should I find but this strange little alien--


A frizzy tow-head with a cheerful attitude--a perfect ball of frizzle.  I don't know what it is, never saw such a thing here before.  Maybe it's a weed and I should uproot it... But then again, maybe it's just another wonder to be wondered at!  This is the stuff of a wild 'cottage garden'--surprises!  I'll leave it, for the same reason that I let Sunflowers spring up in my onion patch and crazy squash/gourd plants volunteer in the compost pile.  They're      wonder-full!

Every spring I go to our local Seed Exchange and bring home packs and packs of seeds with proper Latin names, not because I know what they are but because I wonder... What will they grow up to be? Will I be able to bring them to life in my garden? One year I carefully planted, watered and hovered over my seeds in a sunny window and lo and behold the emerging seedling turned out to be an old friend from our Arizona days, the likes of which would carpet our back yard every Spring dyeing our shoes purple with its tiny but prolific purple flowers.  I am not however an absolute sucker.  I marveled to see it here but did not let it out of my sight, or my door!  Who knows what such a hardy creation would do in the Pacific Northwest with endless water to speed its flowering.  I love the color purple but... no go!

But others make it into the garden as delicate seedlings to begin their generations of begetting wonder...Some are sprinkled in as seed with hopes that there will be enough moisture, enough space, enough of the perfect conditions to nurture their growth.  I relinquish control to the Master Gardener and see what He will do with my offerings...In return I am feted with the wonder of an ever-changing, ever radiant display of living color...

This year it was the giant Sweet Williams that surprised me...IMG_1929

and then these radiant nameless flowers...


Once upon a time I must have brought one home and this was their season to paint the garden! 

So what am I trying to my love of wild things valid?  Should I retain control and keep orderliness, weed out 'surprises' and discipline errant seedlings?  Or is it OK to loosen the rules and sit back and watch what will happen--and bask in the wonder of it all.  I suggest that there are seasons of life when it's not only OK but Good to lighten up on the patrolling and keep an eye out instead for spontaneous moments of wonder.IMG_2394

"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is..."  (IJn.3:2NASB)What a wonder that will be!

July 3, 2009

A Lily of course!

As you may have guessed my mystery bud (see June 15 blog) was in fact a Lily! It surely did not spring from any seed I planted. And now I recall there was a birthday lily last fall and when it dropped its bloom and began to decline it was tossed, pot and all, out the backdoor of course. Well, actually it was set on the
don't-know-where-to-put-this table and in the course of life passing tumbled to its resting place beside the steps--forgotten all the winter long...

And now through no effort on my part it has bloomed--a brilliant surprise. My role was just to plunk it in a sunny spot and watch. Only God can make a lily bloom, or a life come into flower...Sometimes the best thing I can do is step aside and watch--be still and know that He is God. And when the lily blooms, the glory is all His.

June 24, 2009

Just say thank-you

I woke thinking about a story I read yesterday--the one about the ten lepers who were cleansed on their way to show themselves to the priest. Only one came back to thank Jesus (and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet besides!), at which Jesus responded--'where are the nine? Was no one found but this foreigner who returned to give glory to God?' and the man was commended for his faith and told that his faith had made him well--literally had 'saved' him!

It seems to me there is a significant relationship between gratitude and faith. One gives evidence that the other is there. And from my experience, even a speck of gratitude has the potential to increase my faith. For example...when I begin to feel stressed or anxious about something, if I will straightway begin to thank God for the situation and His knowledge of it, and His ability to direct my steps with regard to it... I can sense my faith begin to grow right then and there from that little seed of gratitude. For me, breathing out 'thank-you Lord' audibly (quietly) and continuing to thank Him makes me begin to focus on His ability for the situation rather than my confusion or distress. And then I begin to trust Him to direct me, to provide solutions. And He begins to make a way where moments before there seemed to be no way. I guess that's part of the reason we are instructed to present to Him our requests with thanksgiving whenever we are tempted to be anxious. It works. It changes my attitude from doubt to faith. Try it. It works. Just say, 'thank-you'.

June 15, 2009

What will it be?

An old plastic pot had fallen down unnoticed beside the back steps to join the other debris--bark from the procession of logs being unloaded into the house all winter, stray rubbish on its way to the garbage bin, and sundry articles fallen from the doorside catch-all table. Clean-up time came with spring weather and I had picked up this little pot to toss it but behold! a perfect little plant-kin was happily growing there. This was no weed. Its sturdy dark green leaves looked like...something. I just didn't know what, and where did it come from anyway? Could it actually have sprung from seed I planted last spring?!


You see, when spring comes I cannot resist the urge to dig out seeds and dream of what they could grow to become. The tough part is burying them in dirt! How on earth will these pepper-like bits become brilliant flowers?! Last year I had a particularly daunting array of perennial seeds I had brought home from a seed exchange...With significant stores of doubt I finally got them arranged in makeshift boxes of potting soil by the sliding glass door, all painstakingly labeled on a piece of graph paper so I would not lose track of what was what...

Unfortunately the germination period for some of these babies is weeks long! How long can a person hold out in faith and persevere in keeping seeds moist and warm and sunlit and... well, happy! before doubt takes over and assumes the seed was infertile anyway! Evidently I gave up too soon on these seeds but my Master Gardener didn't....

And now this pretty new plant is tucked in my rusty wheelbarrow planter beside the steps alongside the sunny-faced pansies that showed up here this spring and the store-bought 'basket-stuffers'. It is slowly but surely showing what it was created to become... What will it be?

Just goes to show that you never know what will become of the seeds you've planted. It may seem all your effort's been wasted--doubts may creep in-- you may feel like a failure... but hang on. You just never know what will come of it. May "He who supplies seed to the and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness!" He is faithful to complete the good work begun.

God Bless! and be sure to check back and see what it will be!


Psst... see the results here (July 3,2009)

March 26, 2009

Gleanings from GILEAD

An old man hasn't long to live. The doctor has told him his heart is weak and will not keep him long in this world.   He has a young son, an only child of his old age, who will never really know his father.  The boy is only 7.  The old man is a pastor,  a wise and gentle shepherd, in the wee midwestern town of Gilead, an insignificant town that all but God have long forgotten.  He has chosen to stay here and invest his life in the people here and now is looking back on his life and the lives of the generations before him.  He wants his young son to know who he is, who they were, what is this legacy he has inherited...

So the old man writes a journal to be given to his son when he is old enough to understand. 

These journal entries comprise  the entirety of the modern fiction work, Gilead(copyright 2004) by Marilynne Robinson.  No dramatic suspense, no elaborate plot, just a quiet weaving of history and insight from the perspective of an old man who has walked with God and loved life and wants to capture its essence for his son to savor.  The single line of 'story' in the book revolves around a difficult relationship with an old friend's prodigal son, now returned to town...The old pastor must extend mercy and grace despite his misgivings and distrust of this young man but it will not come without a struggle.  And this struggle becomes the meat of many of the journal entries.  This advice to his son comes out in the process:

"This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him.  When you encounter another person... is is as if a question is being put to you.  So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation?... This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me-- you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate.  You are free to act by your own lights.  You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person.  He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it." (p.124,Gilead, HarperCollinsPubl.)

I loved that!  I guess I am much drawn to grace lately as the missing ingredient in my life so much of the time.  This exquisitely sweet book painted a picture of it for me, and of the beauty of forgiveness extended to the undeserving... What surprises me most about the book is that it is not a 'Christian' book by a 'Christian' publisher.  But the author's excellent writing has given it high acclaim with a secular publishing company.  I love that!

So if you are looking to find some stillness, some grace, some quiet yet energizing escape, look up Marilynne Robinson's book and cozy up for a read.

There is indeed a balm in Gilead...(Jer.8:22)

February 24, 2009

Just the Way You Are...

There's something about a love song that grabs a girl's heart. It's not just the tune, though that can be the winsome agent that sets your heart singing. A good love song says things my very soul longs to hear and believe. [My kids tell me I'm silly to always be listening for lyrics and rejecting a song if it's got unacceptable ones...After all, if the tune grabs you why let a few words get in the way! But ahhh it's a sweet song that delivers both.]

So what does my soul want to hear? That I am loved, as I am, forever and always, no chance of losing favor, no matter what I do (or don't)... That someone I love is crazy about me... That he likes me just the way I am! That someone I love wants to talk to me and listen to what's on my mind... That he loves my company...

Well, yes, I guess that's what my soul wants to hear. And I believe that's because I was created for such a love. Secular artists may not know their Source but when they write lyrics and sing tunes that resonate with a love like this, they echo faintly a Love beyond human comparison. I found a song like that. When I listen as if it were written for me, expressing God's own heart, it makes my soul sing and my face reflect the pleasure.

Try it and see ( :

Billy Joel sings "Just the Way You Are"

Don't go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don't imagine you're too familiar
And I don't see you anymore
I wouldn't leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I'll take the bad times
I'll take you just the way you are
Don't go trying some new fashion
Don't change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care
I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are.
I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you.
I said I love you and that's forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.

And that was Joel (Billy). Here's how Zephaniah* puts it:

"Sing aloud... shout! Rejoice and exult with all your heart,...the LORD has taken away the judgments against you... The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil...He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by HIs love; He will exult over you with loud singing!"

Now that's a love song worth taking to heart!

*(Zephaniah 3:14-17)

February 16, 2009

Reckless Faith or Ruthless Trust?

I've been contemplating the topic for this blog for a while. Should I address my mounting frustration with emotional faith... the sort that constantly seeks experiential evidences to affirm God's presence... Or should I avoid personal remarks and stick with a bland book review of John MacArthur's book: Reckless Faith, in which he addresses what he sees as the hazards of modern Evangelicalism. He sees a trend in which emotional experiences trump doctrinal soundness. He says our churches have lost their ability to discern truth from error. Even 'discernment' has become a mystical, feeling-oriented commodity available to the special few...I found the book a refreshing slap of cold doctrine that sets straight a lot of silliness that goes on in the name of ‘faith’.

Then I glanced at the title of another book I’m currently reading…and that was it, I had my seed thought--their titles. Ironically enough they are: Reckless Faith (MacArthur) and Ruthless Trust (Manning). And one is the perfect complement to the other (though I’m not sure the authors would themselves agree!)

As I see it, there is a problem with a 'reckless' faith that demands God to act. Is it faith that is at work when I seek an experience in order to validate my faith? This is an incomplete faith. Trust is the missing component. Trust is faith coupled with that childlike hope in the Father’s love that makes no demands but rests in what the Father chooses for my life. It does not demand that He intervene in my every discomfort. It is a faith that trusts Him to ‘call the shots’. It is the stuff of the Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame—who clung to God’s promises though they did not receive what they waited for. They died in hope, trusting God’s grace to carry them through. They did not shake His promises in His face as though He were obligated to ‘come through for me now!’

The underlying premise of Ruthless Trust is that the splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure than the most magnificent cathedral, symphony or work of art. Such a heart brings Him more delight than ‘the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom.’ (2)

This ‘ruthless trust’ stands in sharp contrast to a ‘reckless faith’ which bases its validity in ‘powerful’ (often emotional) experiences. Such ‘faith’ is reckless because it is easily duped and its gaze easily turned away from its Author and Finisher. It may claim to be Spirit-led but the Spirit’s role is to point us to Jesus, not to draw attention to Himself!

What then is to be the plumb line by which I measure an experience, a book, a testimony? From my experience, there must be some criterion beyond my own experience! It can’t be all about what God seems to be saying to you or to me or what I’m feeling. This makes for a queasy quagmire, a subjective soup! God is Spirit and Truth. This is the very reason God has given us His written and authoritative, infallible Word, and yes, His Spirit to guide us in it. And His Spirit will never lead us contrary to what is written. Nor will He add to its content. The written Word of God is our trustworthy foundation. Here I can stake a ruthless trust.

And when my faith quavers and I want to experience more of God, or hear His voice more certainly or discover the secret of spiritual power…. what do I do then? How do I resist the urge to seek an experience? And on those days when feelings threaten to overpower reality, what then?
I guess we all want these things, and there are a LOT of voices out there with answers, but none so safe, so good, so sure as God’s own Word.
It is our life—we dare not try to live by bread alone.

The Israelites cried "Is God among us or not?!" They put God to the test. God was not honored or impressed. He called them hard-hearted and said they had not known His ways! (Ps. 95; Numbers 11)

How much better for me to take Him at His Word and rest in ruthless abandon in His trustworthy goodness poured out on my life continually!

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You; in God whose Word I praise, in God I put my trust…” Ps. 56:4


[Thank-you for hearing me out. I’d love to know your thoughts…LS]

February 2, 2009

Happy? How did that happen?!

I was recently awarded this tag for overcoming a period of gloomy days and regaining equilibrium and good cheer.... As a mom it's hard to escape notice when life falls flat and your feelings are reflected on your face. I've just come through such a time and I guess I didn't hide it very well. The tag was from my youngest child in the middle of a happy school morning--the first in a while. It was the first day of a general upswing in disposition that caught me by surprise.

So I've been reflecting on what brought about the change. I'd like to know if there's a magic 'key' so I can use it sooner next time to escape the ''gloomies". These are the factors I've considered. Maybe they will be of use to you too in escaping the 'fog' that life sometimes enters...

#1 Chocolate. I say this tongue in cheek. They say the stuff does have a real chemical effect that cheers you up. I did dip into my little stash of Cadbury Milk Chocolate straight from England. It was creamy and smooth and felt good going down but... I'd have to say, it didn't have much long-term effect.

#2 Exercise. I mention this one a lot because I know it makes a big difference for me. It's almost like a drug. Endorphins are the thing it triggers. Work hard aerobically and they're almost guaranteed to make you feel better, afterward anyway! However this time I got on my bike and headed up the highway and it was freezing cold. My hands very quickly froze and then grew painful. I couldn't think about much else. I resented the whole thing and returned home feeling rather spent and not really comforted. Exercise doesn't always yield an instant gratifying result. I'm sure it had a longer term positive effect but for the moment, it seemed to intensify my gloominess.

#3 Sleep. This was my effort one day. There seemed to be a physical component to my 'sadness'. My eyelids were heavy even though I'd slept fine, had breakfast and even been out to town and back for an appointment. It was only 9 in the morning. But I went back to bed anyway with no knowing when I'd feel like getting up! And who knows how long I'd have lain there half asleep mulling over life, my troubles, and their solutions...and trying to recall Scripture that might apply...

#4 Friends. But there came a knocking at the door. And lo and behold it was the mail lady delivering 3 cards from friends. All beautiful in picture and sentiment. All personal. All affirming. Only God could have arranged for that. And it was enough to get me out of bed and into my rocker in the sun.

#5 Sunshine. Its effects cannot be underestimated. I don't think we know how good the sun really is for us. We've always been warned to avoid it. But when it shines in the thick of winter, it nourishes the soul and really seems to have a physical effect as well. Is this just Vitamin D? I wonder.

#6 Honesty with God and myself. OK so there was a particular morning where I'd reached the boiling point. Issues I hadn't been able to resolve had built up. I had asked the Lord for wisdom and guidance but I didn't feel like He'd answered me. I was up a creek without a paddle and failing to make any headway. I was angry. I took myself outside paper and pen in hand and (sitting in the car all bundled up) began to journal my thoughts, my complaints, my 'case'! I took it to God and admitted where I was at. I recognized I was actually angry at God because I believed He hadn't 'come through' for me! This caught me off guard. But getting it out in the open, admitting it, was a critical step because it quickly began to dawn on me that I was believing a lie. I might feel that it was true but the Word of God is far truer than any feelings I might come up with. Something might be wrong but it certainly wasn't with God!! Just coming to that point was a big step. Because when I come in repentance I can again see Him as my Ally, not my enemy. And I can ask Him to clarify what I'm missing. He has promised wisdom. If I'm not getting it, then it's me that's double-minded, not Him that's miserly! So, that was the start. Though admittedly, I was restless in my complaints and not ready to sit and hear all I needed to hear.

#7 The Word. For this little outing I had also taken my Bible, in case there might be something there to point me in the right direction. Oh my. And did it ever. James 1 had all sorts of things to say to me, about how to latch onto wisdom (ask--in faith. No doubting allowed), about how to manage trials(rejoice, they're perfecting you), about how to receive the Word if you expect it to save your soul! (Meekly! not defending yourself and your 'case'). It was good stuff. And some solace. But still I wanted answers. Still I was focused on my perceived troubles... [The Word came into play again later also, when I was less agitated and more ready to hear. This time it was comforting and reassuring, and probably The Key to bringing peace to my heart. Very sweet. God is faithful].

#8 Psalms and Hymns. A sunny afternoon came along. [Mind you, all these factors did not come into play on the same day. We are covering a few days' time here!]. OK so I must get out for a walk. I chose a formerly favorite destination overlooking the Strait though nature walks had lost their appeal. Life still felt flat mostly. And I walked. When I got to the overlook I sat and began leafing through Psalms, finding the ones focused on praise and reading them out loud. I have recently bought a Message New Testament, not because I think it a great translation but because it offers a fresh perspective, modern language, in which I can express praise... So I read through some Psalms out loud as my own expression of praise. Did I feel it? Not at first. But I know it to be true. I know God is worthy of praise no matter what my circumstances may seem to be... And my heart did begin to thaw. Perhaps life wasn't so flat... I suppose it was a beautiful day...And my soul began to be revived. I went on to sing some hymns and sign the parts I could (in ASL). This was truly therapeutic. Could this be why we are commanded to sing to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? "It is good to sing praises to our God;...a song of praise is fitting."(Ps.147:1)

#9 Reflection on God's true character. Somewhere in this process, my thinking was righted by thinking about who God truly is. While I was whining along, complaining, I was believing bad things about Him. When I reminded myself that He is always loving, always good, never changing, and always keeps His promises, well... then something had to give way. Perhaps the fault was with my hearing...

#10 Taking time to Listen. To be honest, looking back I think the crisis point could probably have been avoided had I faithfully spent time in the Word every morning and consistently kept asking God for answers and listening to Him! My problem was that the more 'tired' I thought I was, the more I justified sleeping in past that sweet time of morning when I was guaranteed to find Him ready and waiting to meet with me alone, in the quiet, before the day was rolling. I had neglected this and it was showing... The day things turned 'happy' again was the day I got up and commenced an old habit called 'Morning Pages'. This is a practice of journaling first thing in the morning whatever comes to mind. It is a unique opportunity to find out what's really on your mind. Artists and people in pursuit of their creative genius practice this. But I find as a believer it is especially helpful to me. I not only clarify what I am troubled about but it gives me a chance to mull it over before God and hear His quiet nudges as He points out things I wasn't aware of and suggests changes of action I might take. It has always been helpful when I take the time for it. And so I recommenced the habit ( :

And with that my days turned a corner from fog to light again. I feel like I've woken up again. My interest in taking pictures and blogging, in teaching Rachel and drawing, in being in touch with friends and enjoying my family... all these are coming alive again.
And oh, where is that Cadbury chocolate? I believe I've eaten it all up!


I'd be interested to hear what your experiences are with staying out of the 'bogs' of life. Leave a comment here or e-mail me 'that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.'

January 15, 2009

Night Wanderings...

Have you read anything about Alzheimer's? I've only just begun. After a week of real-life observation and a session with a doctor pronouncing the grim diagnosis, the subject has become suddenly relevant to my life. It's not a stray word or a vague notion anymore. It's attached to somebody I love, somebody I long for continuing relationship with, somebody I ache for as they enter this lonely fog of confusion with the fancy name...

Funny how life takes unexpected turns, how one day this life seems fine and its relationships forever, and the next, you realize it's not so. You have today, maybe. For better or for worse. Hope of a deepening relationship this side of eternity is in vain. Death is not the only thing that can rob you of your loved ones. There is this living creeping fog...

And just when you think the grief is over and it's just a fact of life to be accepted, you read a new paragraph that describes what you're facing, and are reminded again, this is for real. It's a deteriorating condition. It's not going to go away. Things are going to get worse. You really are losing the one who gave you your name but no longer knows it some days... Grief over? I don't think so.

And then there are the fears that rise especially at night, from being related to this case by genetics. What if I'm losing my mind as we speak? What would that be like? Not to know or be known... Just when I think I've nipped this fear off in the bud, I forget some simple thing and the insinuations arise... hmmm, could be 'early-onset'... This makes for an atmosphere-lightening joke when you're with your sister; alone in the night it's more of a nightmare!

But in the midst of these dark ponderings hope arises. I woke this morning remembering I have a Father who knows my name, who never changes, who won't grow old though He is called the Ancient of Days, who knows me and will love me forever, though my mind doth me part. This is good to remember.

I have been thinking too lately about life's purpose. What is my life's calling? Am I fulfilling it? Am I maximizing the days I have for relationship by making sure the ones I care about know I care? Am I sharing my heart while I have the capacity to share it? Will there be longings for relationship with me that go unmet because I have withheld myself till it becomes no longer a conscious choice? And, am I celebrating the life I have, the relationships I share, the love I enjoy? Every day, a new day, an opportunity to be truly present with and for the family still in my home. This is something to treasure. I see it now with new eyes--something to remember while my mind can cling to the remembering...

But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.' (Lam.3:21-24)